Over at the Daily News Shaun King is writing a 25-part series on “solutions for police brutality.” The sixteenth article in the series is on police body cameras and includes a number of misconceptions that I want to address. Body cameras are a valuable tool in the quest to increase accountability and transparency in law enforcement, but discussions about body camera policy shouldn’t misrepresent the difficulties associated with policy-making or police officers’ motivations.
King is right to highlight the number of people killed by American police every year and the impact video footage can have in securing convictions against officers who unlawfully use deadly force. Video footage has played a crucial role in investigations into police misconduct. Police officers involved in the deaths of Samuel DuBose, Walter Scott, and Laquan McDonald are facing murder charges, undoubtedly thanks to video captured by a bystander, a body camera, and a dash camera.
According to The Guardian‘s “The Counted” project 1,146 people were killed in interactions with police in 2015. That’s a rate of about three a day. That rate has held roughly steady into this year, with 693 police-involved deaths in 2016 so far. This is an unacceptable state of affairs, and it’s appropriate, given the number of people killed by American police, that criminal justice reform advocates have pushed for police officers to wear body cameras. It’s intuitive to think that if police knew their actions were being recorded they would be more hesitant to use deadly force.
King clearly thinks that police are hesitant to adopt body cameras, despite the fact that they are supported by a clear majority of the public:it’s my strong belief that police officers and departments are scared to death of this innovation. The proof is all around us. Not only are police departments outrageously slow to adopt the technology, but we continue to see case after case where departments claim to have purchased body cameras, but officers are not wearing them when they use lethal force.
I think King is being unfair to police officers and is not considering the many crucial issues that have to be finalized before an effective body camera policy can be implemented.
It’s of course difficult to generalize when it comes to police officers. There are roughly 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about three quarters of a million people work as sworn state and local law enforcement officers. Clearly, it’s going to be difficult to establish what every police officer in the United States thinks about body cameras.
It’s crucial that body camera policies are carefully thought-out. Without the right policies in place body cameras cannot be tools for increased transparency and accountability in law enforcement.
But that doesn’t mean that researchers haven’t tried to give us some insight into police attitudes towards body cameras. Late last year the American Journal of Criminal Justice published research showing that half of the law enforcement command staff at the local, state, and federal level in a southern county of approximately 1.3 million people support body cameras. The research also showed that half of the same command staff was neutral when asked if body cameras would improve officer interactions with citizens. However, a third of police leadership agreed or strongly agreed that body cameras would improve such interactions.
A 2012 PoliceOne/TASER nationwide survey of 785 local, state, and federal law enforcement professionals found that an “overwhelming majority of police officers believe that there’s a need for body-worn cameras.” The same survey found that 86.4 percent of respondents believe body cameras can reduce false accusations and litigation.
Of course, these surveys aren’t perfect and don’t provide us a full picture of police attitudes towards body cameras. But it’s safe to say that police officers are not universally “scared to death” of body cameras. Yet, according to King, even departments that do express an interest in body cameras can be “outrageously slow to adopt the technology.”
I, like King, have noted delays in body camera deployment, but we shouldn’t forget that data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that 32 percent of local police departments used body cameras in 2013 (the last year such data is available). According to Arizona State University criminologist Michael White, every police department with more than fifty officers will be equipping officers with body cameras by 2017 or 2018. But there will still be plenty of work to be done: only around 12 percent of local law enforcement agencies have at least fifty officers.
There are a range of reasons why body camera implementation can be delayed that aren’t related to police officers’ perceived desire to resist increased transparency. Body cameras are expensive and impose a fiscal burden on local governments and states that cannot be ignored. Criminal justice reform advocates understandably want footage of use-of-force incidents available to the public. Storing and curating all of this data costs money. In May, Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that body cameras would cost $11.6 million over five years. Body cameras for Los Angeles Police Department officers are set to cost $57.6-million over a five-year period.
Police departments are not always the institutions responsible for delaying body camera deployment. The Los Angeles City Council stalled body camera plans, citing the price tag and concerns over how the LAPD selected its body camera manufacturer. Last year, the full body camera deployment in Wichita, Kansas was delayed thanks to a lack of federal funds. Data storage concerns delayed the Colorado Springs Police Department body camera roll-out earlier this month.
Perhaps most importantly, body camera programs can be delayed for policy reasons. It’s crucial that body camera policies are carefully thought-out. Without the right policies in place body cameras cannot be tools for increased transparency and accountability in law enforcement.
In his article King discusses “hardcore” policies, writing, “As long as police openly feel like they can turn their cameras off and on at will, the cameras are basically an expensive piece of junk and a mockery of the hard work good people have put in to reform a very serious American problem.” He goes on, “Perhaps the cameras should not even be controllable by officers, but roll constantly.”
These comments raise questions King doesn’t answer. Police regularly talk to the victims of crime and enter private residences. Is it reasonable for police officers to expect the victims of domestic assault to talk to them with a camera rolling? Should cameras be rolling when officers are talking to informants or children who have been sexually abused? What if a citizen calls the police to help her deal with a mentally ill family member and then asks the responding officer to turn his body camera off? After all, footage of living rooms and bedrooms can reveal private information. What’s the best policy for this situation? Should the officer disregard the citizen’s privacy concerns and film the interior of her home anyway?
Policies can address these issues, and I outlined my own thoughts on the best practices for body camera policy in a paper published last year. King should acknowledge that body camera policy is difficult and must be carefully thought through in order to avoid devastating privacy violations. “Hardcore” policies that keep body cameras rolling constantly could have harmful unintended consequences that would outweigh the benefits of body cameras.
It is undeniably frustrating when police officers fail to turn their cameras on during deadly use-of-force incidents, and officers that fail to have body cameras on when they kill someone should face harsh consequences. Yet this frustration shouldn’t lead us to doubt the motives of an entire profession or to propose policies that do not take into account the potential privacy violations made possible by body cameras.Matthew Feeney is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute.
Daniel R. Pearson
Carrier, a manufacturer of air conditioners, has received more than its fair share of attention during this political year. Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump has expressed his displeasure that Carrier and a related firm have decided to move 2,100 manufacturing jobs from Indiana to Monterrey, Mexico, where the company has existing production facilities.
Back in February, Trump threatened that as president he would offer Carrier the choice of keeping its factories in the United States, or else subject itself to a tariff on air conditioners imported from Mexico. “I’m going to tell them, ‘Now I’m going to get consensus from Congress and we’re going to tax you.’” This protectionist reaction ignores the underlying reasons that likely are driving Carrier’s decision.
A more constructive approach would be to improve the U.S. business climate by reforming policies that create unnecessary burdens for companies.
Carrier’s official statement regarding the relocation says that it is due to “ongoing cost and pricing pressures driven, in part, by new regulatory requirements.” Although the statement does not mention the difference in wage rates, lower hourly costs in Mexico may have played a role. Carrier’s expenses for employee salary and benefits average about $34 per hour in Indiana, while those costs in Mexico are only about $6 per hour.
However, much of that differential likely would be offset by lower productivity (less output per hour worked) in Mexico than in the United States. Data compiled by The Conference Board indicates that the value of output generated per hour by the average U.S. worker in 2016 is 3.2 times greater than for the average Mexican worker ($67 vs. $21 per hour). Interestingly, that gap has widened significantly since NAFTA was implemented in 1994. Then the average U.S. worker generated $48 of output per hour (adjusted to 2015 U.S. dollars) while the average Mexican produced $19. Productivity gains have boosted the value generated by an hour worked in the United States by 40% over 22 years, while in Mexico the gain has been only 10.5%.
If the United States wishes to encourage companies to manufacture in this country, a good start would be to improve the business climate.
What inferences might be drawn from trends in labor productivity? One is that the U.S. economy appears to be reinventing itself faster than the Mexican economy. U.S. companies have invested effectively in technologies that are helping workers to produce more per hour worked. Another inference is that there generally is less incentive today (compared to years ago) for U.S. firms to move factories to Mexico due to lower wage rates. If the wage gap didn’t prompt a move in years past, why should it do so now when U.S. productivity gains are outpacing those in Mexico?
What other factors could have inspired Carrier’s move? U.S. businesses frequently are critical of what they see as burdensome regulations imposed by government. Those range from policies dealing with energy and the environment, to rules pertaining to labor relations and taxation. One often overlooked issue is the burden placed on manufacturing firms by antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) measures. AD/CVD duties are imposed to provide protection for U.S. companies that face import competition. Many industries that seek AD/CVD protection are in the business of making basic products that are used as inputs by downstream manufacturers. The simple reality of the marketplace is that protected firms tend to receive higher prices. Those higher prices translate directly into higher costs for value-added manufacturers that use the protected product as an input.
Steel provides a great example. The United States has imposed roughly 150 AD/CVD orders to limit imports of steel from numerous countries. The extra duties help steel mills to compete, but they also reduce the competitiveness of steel-consuming firms that must pay those extra costs. AD/CVD measures cause a few steel producers to be winners, while a whole lot of other firms end up as losers.
Since steel is required to make air conditioners, there is little doubt that Carrier is one of the losers from AD/CVD policies. Perhaps more important than steel, AD/CVD measures also apply to imports of copper tubing and aluminum extrusions, both of which are used to accomplish the essential heat-exchange function. Carrier can avoid those policy-imposed costs simply by moving to Mexico.
Years of operating on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border have taught Carrier a lot about what it costs to manufacture air conditioners in each country. There seems little doubt that the decision to move to Monterrey indicates that senior managers believe it to be in the best long-term interests of the firm. If the United States wishes to encourage companies to manufacture in this country, a good start would be to improve the business climate by revoking AD/CVD orders that raise the cost of imported components.Daniel R. Pearson is a Senior Fellow in Trade Policy Studies at the CATO Institute
Michael D. Tanner
Happy birthday, welfare reform. Twenty years ago today, August 22, leaders of both political parties gathered in the White House Rose Garden to watch President Clinton sign the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which represented the most extensive revision of federal anti-poverty policy in more than 30 years.
Echoing one of his campaign themes, Clinton declared, “Today, we are ending welfare as we know it.”
At the time, critics predicted disaster, painting an almost Dickensian picture of millions thrown into destitution. “Wages will go down, families will fracture, and millions of children will be made more miserable than ever,” The New Republic warned.
One frequently cited Urban Institute study predicted that more than 1 million children would be thrown into poverty. Three senior members of Clinton’s own administration resigned in protest.
Meanwhile, welfare reform supporters were touting fundamental change that would move millions of people from the dole to work, ending generations of welfare dependence and lifting millions out of poverty.
Looking back now over the past two decades, we can now evaluate welfare reform’s successes and failures objectively. And the result is: meh.
The dire predictions of welfare reform’s critics have not come to pass. Poverty rates actually declined in the years immediately following the passage of welfare reform, as did poverty for important subcategories such as African-Americans and children.
Since 2000, poverty rates have crept back up, and spiked during the recession, but still remain in line with pre-reform levels. There is some evidence that those in deep poverty, that is those at half of the federal poverty level or below, may not have fared as well, but it depends which measure is used. Overall, welfare reform does not appear to have thrown large numbers of Americans into poverty.
But if welfare reform was not the disaster that its critics feared, neither was it the unalloyed triumph that its supporters claimed.
Welfare enrollment, of course, declined, from 13.42 million AFDC recipients in 1995 to just 4.12 million people on TANF last year. This should be no surprise. Many of the provisions of PRWORA, from time limits to work requirements, were specifically designed to move people off the rolls. Accomplishing this without increasing poverty should be counted a success.
But welfare reform hasn’t had nearly as much success in increasing economic mobility and helping people become self-sufficient. A recent study by Harvard’s Raj Chetty and colleagues in the American Economic Review found that “children entering the labor force today have the same chances of moving up the income distribution (relative to their parents) as children born in the 1970s.” No worse. But also no better.
Despite reform, welfare spending has continued to climb. After all, welfare reform reformed a program, not a system.
The federal government funds more than 100 separate anti-poverty programs, more than 70 of which provide benefits to individuals. Welfare reform may have reduced the growth in AFDC/TANF benefits, but that merely shifted spending to other programs, from Medicaid, to food stamps to housing and so on.
Today, federal and state governments spend nearly $1 trillion on antipoverty programs. Yet, even if poverty rates haven’t spiked as critics feared, neither have we lifted many people out of poverty. That’s a great deal of money for pretty mediocre results.
Clearly there is much more to be done if we are serious about reducing poverty in America. Many of the most needed reforms have little to do with the welfare system itself. That includes an unfair criminal justice system, failing public schools, slow economic growth and the legacy of racial and gender-based discrimination.
But there is more we can do to reform welfare as well. We should consolidate existing programs, simplifying, and demanding more accountability. We should shift away from in-kind benefits that largely reward providers such as landlords, food stores, and doctors, re-emphasizing cash benefits that treat poor people like adults, while demanding responsible behavior.
In short, welfare reform was neither the disaster that its critics feared nor the success its supporters claim. It was a step in the right direction, but only a small one. The real work of fighting poverty remains ahead of us.Michael Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis.
David B. Kopel
Do people have a right to defend themselves against a tyrannical government? And does the Second Amendment reinforce that right? Donald Trump appeared to be referring to such a right recently, in his muddled comments about “Second Amendment people.” But trying to discern the thinking behind Trump’s thoughtless blather is pointless. Instead, it’s better to consider the guidance of the Constitution and the founders.
According to the Declaration of Independence, the only legitimate governments are those with the consent of the governed. When a government becomes the enemy and not the defender of human rights, the people can withdraw their consent and set up a new government.
“Prudence dictates” against changing long-established governments, or withdrawing consent for “light and transient causes,” said the declaration. But by 1776, “the long train of usurpations and abuses” by King George’s government had demonstrated “a design to reduce” the colonists “under absolute Despotism.” The declaration pointed out that the Americans had repeatedly asked their “British brethren” to redress the problems, but the British “have been deaf to the voice of Justice.” Therefore, “necessity” required the Americans to separate from Great Britain, as a last resort.
Perhaps, as Madison predicted, all the other checks and balances will always prevent tyranny. But should tyranny ever triumph, the US Constitution provides a mechanism to restore constitutional order.
Jefferson later explained that among the sources of the declaration were “the elementary books of public right,” such as the works of Cicero, Locke, and Sidney. Those theorists had agreed that government without consent is the same as robbery; in both cases, forcible self-defense was legitimate.
But once the Americans had won their independence, how could the declaration’s legal principles be applied if an American government became as abusive and obstinate as King George had been?
From the beginning, concerns about tyranny
When the proposed Constitution was before the people for ratification, many anti-Federalists worried that the new government would be too powerful, and could become tyrannical. In Federalist No. 46, James Madison reassured the public that the many checks and balances in the Constitution — the separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, for example — made it very unlikely that a tyrant could seize power. If a tyrant did, he would speedily be deposed by the state governments, who would lead the armed people in the militias.
“Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation,” Madison wrote, “the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.” By “simple,” Madison meant a unitary government, such as France, as opposed to the US Constitution’s system of dividing sovereignty between the federal government and the states.
Madison was following a long tradition in Western Christian thought that the best leaders of resistance to tyranny were “intermediate magistrates” — such as local governments and their officials.
The founders rejected the notion that individuals or some group could use armed force just because they did not like a particular law. In fact, they believed quite the opposite: The Constitution specifically empowers Congress “[t]o provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.” The power was first exercised during the presidencies of George Washington and John Adams, when the federal government called forth state militias to suppress insurrections known as the Whiskey Rebellion (in western Pennsylvania) and Fries’s Rebellion (in eastern Pennsylvania). Both insurrections had grown out of anti-tax protests, in which mobs crossed the line by using armed force.
In contrast, the American Revolution perfectly fit with the principle of intermediate magistrates: Independence was declared by delegates representing the state governments.
The right to fight tyranny is universal
The Second Amendment does not create a right of revolution against tyranny. That inherent right is universal. As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, “[I]t is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.” The Universal Declaration was influenced by the Declaration of Independence, thanks in part to the US delegation led by Ambassador Eleanor Roosevelt (who carried her own handgun for protection).
The Second Amendment does, however, reinforce the rule of law and anti-tyranny structure of the US Constitution, by ensuring the government cannot disarm the people. In the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, all nine Justices agreed that the amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for service in the militia. (The justices disagreed about whether the right includes other purposes, such as personal self-defense or hunting.) Why did the founding generation believe that a well-regulated militia was necessary? One reason, observed Justice Antonin Scalia: “when the able-bodied men of a nation are trained in arms and organized, they are better able to resist tyranny.”
Explaining the proposed Second Amendment, Madison’s ally Tench Coxe, a delegate to the Continental Congress for Pennsylvania, wrote: “As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow-citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.” Madison thanked Coxe for the newspaper essay.
Democratic Vice President and Minnesota Sen. Hubert Humphrey, the congressional leader of the civil rights movement, expressed a similar sentiment nearly two centuries later. For three decades after World War II, he was the embodiment of a liberal Democrat. In 1960, Humphrey wrote: “Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used and that definite safety rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.”
As Humphrey recognized, there was local tyranny in the Jim Crow system of the South. In the mid-1960s, the Ku Klux Klan was so powerful in southwestern Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana that they called the region “Klan nation.” The Klan’s organized terrorism had the tacit acquiescence of local law enforcement.
Who should be judged a defender of basic rights, and who is just an “armed hothead”?
In the summer of 1965 about 20 black army veterans in Jonesboro, Louisiana, founded an armed community defense patrol, “Deacons for Defense and Justice.” Inspired by visible public presence of boldly armed men, black attitudes in Jonesboro began to change. Black housekeepers stopped accepting racial taunts, and quit if the taunts continued. “Armed Negroes Make Jonesboro Unusual Town,” was the headline of a New York Times article on Jonesboro, on February 21, 1965. The Deacons model spread to other Klan heartlands, and was able to overturn Klan power with scarcely a shot fired.
In June 1966, after the attempted murder of civil rights leader James Meredith, major civil rights organizations banded together to continue the “Meredith March against Fear,” from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi. With Martin Luther King’s consent, armed security was provided the entire way by the Deacons for Defense. As the Deacons example demonstrates, resistance to tyranny does not have to rise to the level of state militias attempting to oust a national dictator. Sometimes, the simple, lawful of carrying firearms for defense of self and others may be all that is needed to safeguard the exercise of other rights, such as free speech.
But hotheads who try to make political statements by armed displays often do not help their cause. Such was the case of the American Indian Movement’s takeover of the Wounded Knee, South Dakota, reservation in 1973, or the 2016 takeover of an unoccupied building at a federal wildlife reserve in eastern Oregon. Arms should be a last resort, not a publicity tactic.
Today’s world is different from 1791. The genocides of the last century show that a criminal government is even more dangerous than the founders thought. The US military — along with the federal government — has grown more powerful than the founders could have imagined. Yet global military history since 1791 repeatedly demonstrates that mighty armies can be defeated by citizens fighting for the consent of the governed. One thing hasn’t changed since the days of the Roman lawyer Cicero: Free republics are sometimes taken over by tyrannical demagogues.
During American history, some members of the party out of power have worried about impending tyranny. Happily, this has never come to pass.
Today, some people worry that Donald Trump resembles Hugo Chavez and other fascists. Other people, such as National Review’s Jonah Goldberg in his book Liberal Fascism, describe the similarity of Woodrow Wilson’s nationalist and quasi-socialist programs to those of Mussolini. Goldberg argues that Hillary Clinton would amplify a century-long slide of the American left towards a mild, Americanized version of fascism. The rhetoric and records of Trump and Clinton are not exactly scrupulous about respect for the Constitution, or any other law.
Perhaps, as Madison predicted, all the other checks and balances will always prevent tyranny. But should tyranny ever triumph, the US Constitution provides a mechanism to restore constitutional order. In the vision of Madison, it would be states leading their militias, the militias consisting of the able-bodied male population.
In a modern sense, the organized portion of the state militia is the State National Guard, and the unorganized portion of the militia is able-bodied males. So we might think of today’s mechanism as governors, hopefully with legislative backing, calling forth whatever parts of their state militias were considered appropriate under the circumstances. As in Madison’s day, militiamen by themselves can rarely defeat a professional army in direct battle. But in modern times as in Madison’s day, neither can a professional army always succeed in imposing a dictator’s will throughout a vast and well-armed country.
Like the one in Federalist No. 46, this is an “in extremis,” largely theoretical, argument.The American system has thus far proved strong enough to check the worst characters, such as Richard Nixon. The threat of impeachment, and not revolution, sufficed to end his assault on the rule of law — and that threat, along with the other checks and balances, has always sufficed to prevent dictatorship.David Kopel is research director, Independence Institute, Denver; associate policy analyst, Cato Institute, Washington, DC; adjunct professor, Denver University, Sturm College of Law; and author of the forthcoming book The Morality of Self-Defense and Military Action: The Judeo-Christian Tradition.